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What to Disclose When You're Disclosing

There's an old saying I often hear thrown around: "you should never lie to your doctor or your lawyer". And in my experience, this is often true. Since I was a counselor in my prior life, I'd also add "therapist" to that list as well, but that's a different blog post.

I've had a few "oh no" moments at a divorce or other family law hearing when I find something out that my client, either intentionally or unintentionally, failed to tell me and I have to say: it's not a good feeling. Yes, it is my job to think on my feet when I'm in the court. And yes, it is my job to help you navigate through this process and hopefully come out unscathed on the other end.

However, my job and, subsequently, your position in the case, is made much easier when you're forthcoming with information. If child services have come out to your home to investigate before, please tell me about that. Do not let me find out at trial by my opposing counsel who uses that info to get the upper hand. If you and your spouse had a BDSM relationship and took pictures of each other bound and tied up, then please let me know before your wife's attorney parades the pictures around the courtroom declaring domestic violence.

I have to have ALL the facts. Do you really want the presentation of your life to a judge to be based on faulty or incomplete information? Do you want the decision of who gets custody, or gets the house, to be based on lies that can be disproven if they are anticipated? OF COURSE NOT.

A lot of attorneys may tell you this, but I can honestly say that in my experience as a counselor AND an attorney, there is probably nothing you could ever disclose that would surprise me or make me think less of you. My job is to help you. And that means that I need to come to the fight armed with information. And no one is going to have a perfect background or devoid of something bad. We all have flaws and some of us have done some not so great things, but as your counsel, I can help mitigate the damage if I need to but only if I know about it.

That DUI arrest from a few years ago? Yeah, tell me about it. That bankruptcy you declared in the 90's? Tell me. That prostitute you hired back in your teens that you got drunk and told your wife about? Let me know. You slipped up and smoked pot a couple of weeks ago because of the stress of the custody case? Yeah, you should probably disclose that to me, too.

I spent years working in a field where I had to pull people out of their shells and help them to face their demons head on, giving guidance and support as necessary, and honestly, practicing family law isn't all that different. I let my clients know ahead of time that I will always be forthcoming and straightforward with them, and expect the same in return. I do not pad my client's ego, or fuel anger or other types of feelings that won't get us closer to your goals.

Trust me, it's in your best interests and your case's best interests to be up front and honest with me. Help me to help you.

Megan Santiago

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